I Am So Not Obsessed

This post was originally published back in August, shortly after Mr. R. and I returned from our adventure at Tampa Bay Comic Con.  To say that we had a blast is an understatement.  We pre-purchased three-day passes to the convention, but having media passes was the cherry on top.  The distinctive lanyards afforded us easy access to celebrity events for which we would otherwise have spent hours waiting on line.  The celebrity photos would have been off-limits without our having purchased a very expensive photo package.

You may be wondering why I’m choosing to repost this article now.  On the second day of the convention, Mr. R. and I used our media passes to get early admission to and preferred seating at the only Q&A session featuring both Richard Madden and Pedro Pascal from Game of Thrones.

So in honor of the Game of Thrones Season 5 Premiere Eve, I present to you:

Tampa Bay Comic Con: Day 2 (At Last)

Tampa-Bay-Comic-ConThere was so much that happened on Day 2 of Tampa Bay Comic Con, I’ve had trouble deciding how to organize the information.  I’ve decided to create sections with headings.  Celebrity photos are at the end of this post.  Here goes…

General Observations: On Saturday, as we waited in line to park (and an exceedingly long line it was), we watched herds of people moving along the sidewalks towards the convention center.  Many were in costume and everyone moved with purpose and confidence.  My thought was, “I love Comic Con.”  This is a place where everyone can unapologetically proclaim their fandom for whatever floats their boat.  It’s extremely liberating.  Speaking of costumes, before we left home I read about San Diego Comic Con on someone’s blog, and she described attending in costume as a cross between the most humiliating moment of your life and your fifteen minutes of fame.  As we watched crowd reactions to costumes, I could see that comparison.  Random strangers stopped costumed attendees to ask for pictures.  “Hey, Wolverine, can my son get a picture with you?”  In terms of costume categories we saw plenty of Poison Ivys, Batman characters in general, some Star Wars, Dr. Who, a couple of Oberyn Martells, and not as many Game of Thrones characters as I expected.

Things That Were Annoying: If you don’t want to hear me bitch and moan, skip this section, because although overall we had an amazing time, there were a few things that were very wrong at Tampa Bay Comic Con.

First of all, parking was problematic, which shouldn’t be surprising given the number of people in attendance, however, we prepaid $61 to Parking Panda for guaranteed valet parking a short walk from the venue.  When we arrived on Friday, the parking garage was full so we were sent to another parking garage a short distance further down and we had to self-park.  On Saturday, the line going to the valets was blocking traffic, so once again we were sent to the other garage to self-park.  We arrived on Sunday, truck loaded with our bags for the return trip home, prepared to self-park and just as glad about it at that point.  But since the crowds were much thinner, we actually made it to the valet who informed us that if we chose to park ourselves, we’d probably be charged $20 when we left.  Unwillingly, we let him park us.  It seems petty, I suppose, because we always did have a space to park, but the whole situation really chapped my behind.

Then there was the heavy handed way convention staff treated guests.  Entering and moving around the complex was unbelievably complicated.  You could never get where you wanted to go from where you were.  Someone was always yelling at you that you were going the wrong way, out the entrance or in the exit.  Or you had a wristband for re-entry, but there was ONE re-entry door in the entire complex.  One of the most infuriating rules was that from where you entered the building, you had to press through the crush of the exhibit hall in order to go to the other end of the complex, rather than use the empty walkway immediately outside the exhibit hall, and again, the traffic flow was one way only.  We heard the word “flow” a lot as we (read, Mr. R.) expressed displeasure with being treated like errant school children.  They really could do better.

The “flow” through the exhibition hall.

Food and drinks were difficult to find and the facility had precious few places to sit.  At any given time, there were masses of people sitting on the floor in odd places like beneath the escalators and along the walls, hunched over slices of pizza or cardboard holders of nachos.  I nearly crushed countless smartphones that were plugged in and sitting on the floor next to their owners.  I kept thinking, this is a convention center.  Conventions are what they do.  Do you suppose Rotarians have to sit on the floor under the escalators?  Now, I’ve gotten that out of the way…

Interesting Folks: Luckily, Mr. R. and I were able to snag a table about forty-five  minutes before we went to the first Q&A panel.  We had two extra chairs and were happy to share with people looking for a place park their weary behinds.  The first to ask were Holly Moran and Jeremy Druley, a local couple in subtle gothic dress on their first visit to Comic Con.  She wore a top with a pattern of rainbow skulls, accessorized with a bat pendant.  He wore a cannibal t-shirt and silver anchor ear gauges.  They told us they were just checking it out and people watching, being fans of horror more than comics, but they said they were having fun.

Ned Stark (Ed Padilla) & Daenerys Targaryen (Danielle Myers)

After Holly and Jeremy left, we were joined by Ed Padilla and Danielle Myers, dressed as Ned Stark and Daenerys Targaryen, respectively.  I was glad to see them since up until then I has seen very few Game of Thrones costumes.  This was their second Comic Con and they offered some interesting information.  It seems that last year, organizers expected ten thousand attendees and ended up with thirty thousand.  I’m thinking that poor planning on their part resulted in big fines, which perhaps explains their inflexible rules regarding “flow.”

Did I Mention Celebrities?: Let me just begin this section by saying that press passes rock.  This is because they can get you into unbelievable places.  Case in point, celebrity photo ops.  The average attendee was invited to purchase photo op tickets for $30-$50 dollars apiece, depending on the celebrity, then at the appointed time wait in a huge line to have a picture snapped with said celebrity, and take home a personalized souvenir of the event.  Press passes allowed us to bypass the line completely and walk right into photo sessions with Evan Peters of American Horror Story and Brighton Sharbino and Kyla Kennedy of The Walking Dead.

We didn’t want photos with the actors, we just wanted to see them, and we did, up close and personal.  I practically bumped into Brighton Sharbino.  It was amazingly cool.  Mr. R. tooks photos of people taking photos while I took copious notes.

Later we attended two back to back Q&A panels, the first with Evan Peters and the second with Pedro Pascal and Richard Madden from Game of Thrones.  With the press passes, we once again avoided the long lines and were ushered into the VIP section, literally the second row in front of the stage.  We could have chosen the front row if we’d liked but I preferred the end of the second row for the angle it afforded.  Ultimately, I sat taking notes while Mr. R. moved freely around the stage snapping photos.

Evan Peters answered fan questions for half an hour, gamely responding to questions he’s undoubtedly heard a thousand times, at one point even dropping trou in answer to the predictable question of ‘boxers or briefs’ (for the record, pastel plaid boxers).  Mind you, his parents were in the audience, directly in front of Mr. R. and me, making this particular follow-up request from a young fan-girl even more inappropriate than it would have been under any circumstance: “Thank you.  Also please sit on my face.”  Obviously, Peters is promoting the new season of American Horror Story: Carnival, due out in October.  I, for one, am looking forward to the premiere.

After this session, the room had to be emptied out to accommodate the long lines waiting to get into the Pedro Pascal/Richard Madden panel, but if you had a press pass you were allowed to sit tight and wait.  So wait we did.  When they finally opened the doors, it was to admonitions of, “Don’t run!  Don’t run!”  They seemed to be letting fans into the ballroom a few small groups at a time and eventually the entire room filled.  The crowd went crazy when Richard Madden and Pedro Pascal were announced and they strode out onto the stage, and there were hearty shouts of “King in the North!” throughout the hall.  I have to admit to being a bit starstruck for a few moments, even writing in my notes that I was having trouble focusing.

Allow me a bit of snark, if you will.  When the questions began, the first one up was an annoying blogger (also with a press pass) who sat in front of us and during the previous session, she really buddied up to Evan Peters’ mom, simpering and acting like a big shot journalist.  So little Miss Annoying steps up the the mic and welcomes Pedro Pascal and Richard Madden to “our country.”  Mind you, Pascal was raised in California and Texas.  A serious journalist should do a little research.  The two men simply looked at each other and shrugged.

Pascal and Madden also answered questions with good natured enthusiasm.  They said they hadn’t met before that day, and at first I thought they were kidding.  It’s true that they never shared any scenes.  Pascal was in the process of auditioning for the role of Oberyn Martell when the “Red Wedding” episode aired.  Not having read the books, Pascal described his reaction as, “Just.  Fucking.  Traumatized.”

Some of the most interesting moments of the panel came when the two men conversed between themselves.

RM: Did you ever sit on the iron throne?

PP: Yeah. (smiling)  It wasn’t comfortable.  It was very uncomfortable.

RM: I never thought I should.

PP: And look where it got you.

Another conversation stemming from a question about whether they’d kept anything from the set:

RM: I kept a dressing gown and I kept one map piece representing each family.

PP: They wouldn’t let me have anything.

RM: I suppose I sort of stole them. (laughing)

PP: I was stupid.  I asked. (shrugging and grinning)

Up next for Richard Madden is the role of the Prince in Disney’s Cinderella.  Pedro Pascal is working on a series for Netflix called Narcos, about the takedown of Pablo Escobar.  I can truthfully say that sitting in on these sessions was the coolest thing I’ve probably ever done.  I can’t wait to do it again.

So, overall, my impression of Tampa Bay Comic Con?  Despite the militant rules and regulations, I had a great time.  Having tickets for all three days eliminated the pressure I’d have felt to ‘see it all’ the first day.  Having press passes made for the coolest moments, and I don’t think I’d want to go without them.  I would definitely go again, hoping that the convention organizers will spend the year getting their act together to make for a more pleasant experience.

*Note: With the exception of the postcard at the top of the page, all photos are by Mr. R.

Amazing Date Night–Blast From The Past (4th and Final)

Mr. R. and I are lucky enough to have the holiday off together today.  Earlier this morning, while scrolling through the television guide, we discovered that The Love Boat was playing on the TV Guide Channel.  Of  course, we had to tune in and we spent the hour laughing hysterically.  The plot was so incredibly, deliciously cheesy.  Sadly, none of the guest stars we saw at the Princess Cruise 50th Anniversary/Regal Princess Christening Celebration were in today’s episode, but it was enjoyable nevertheless.

IMG_2295Meanwhile at the Celebration, toward the end of the gold carpet procession, I began to hear maddenly intriguing crowd noises behind us down on the pool deck.  I was torn between watching the last of the gold carpet celebrities and finding out what was going on down there.  Focus! I told myself.  Be in this moment!  One of the last to greet the media was Jeraldine Saunders, who, to be truthful, I did not know.  It turns out that she is a former cruise director and author of the book The Love Boats, the inspiration for the television series.  Not to be unkind, but she was a bit like Norma Desmond, all ready for her close-up.

With the gold carpet finished, Mr. R. and I made our way to the railing overlooking the pool area where we discovered there were celebrity interviews on stage in the center of the deck being conducted by Jill Whelan, who played Vicki Stubing in the series.  The celebrities we’d seen were being escorted in the same alphabetical order onto the stage to chat with Jill and all of this was being shown on the jumbo screen above us and to our right.

IMG_2288The ship was a lot more crowded than when we’d first arrived and it occurred to me that the guests down below hadn’t seen the gold carpet processional and so this was their first glimpse of the celebrities.  Two celebrities who’d for whatever reason missed the gold carpet but were interviewed onstage were Charlene Tilton, looking as cute as ever, and Adrian Zmed, who’s held up nicely.  Everyone chatted excitedly, discussing their current projects and of course, pushing Princess Cruises.  (They were all heading out on a three-day cruise the following day.)

IMG_2301After the interviews, the Ceremony began with the celebrities being introduced once again as they were seated in two long rows of chairs situated beneath the giant screen on our level of the deck.  It was hosted by Florence Henderson, a departure from the original plan which was for the event to be hosted by Tori Spelling, Love Boat guest star and daughter of the show’s creator, Aaron Spelling.  Florence Henderson mentioned that we may have been expecting someone else, but that there were issues due to someone’s lousy husband, never actually mentioning anyone by name.  “Ooh, she totally went there!” I gasped.

The ceremony featured a video outlining 50 Years of Princess, accompanied by an a capella group called The Mosaic, who mysteriously was backed up by a bass/percussion track.  Princess Cruises executives were introduced and were seated with the celebrity guests.  The original Love Boat cast was named the godparents of the Regal Princess.

IMG_2307Jack Jones appeared on the stage and performed the iconic Love Boat Theme accompanied by a live band.  I want to mention again that on the gold carpet, a reporter asked him to sing and he did the first verse and chorus right there without accompaniment.  It was pretty impressive.

Next on stage was a performance by Charo.  She’s been doing the same thing for decades, but you know, it isn’t getting old or tired.  She’s the same spitfire she always was.  At one point, she mentioned that she’s taken “cuchi-chuchi” all the way to the bank.  Onstage dressed in a sparkling aqua sequined and fringed jumpsuit, she did a bunch of her ‘don’t speak the language’ schtick and I was feeling a little disappointed.  That’s until she got out her guitar.  Folks, comedy shenanigans aside, Charo is an accomplished musician.  She played flamenco and by the time she was finished, I had goosebumps.  It was amazing!

Following Charo’s performance, the priest who serves as chaplain to Port Everglades took the podium to give the prayer.  He quipped, “I’ve never had to follow Charo before.”  Some around us agreed that it was the line of the night.

IMG_2315With the prayer finished, it was time for the christening, which would be in two parts.  We were told that along the side of the ship, fifty bottles of champagne would be released at once, commemorating the 50th anniversary.  Then on deck, a huge bottle of champagne would be released to christen the ship.  The Love Boat cast moved into place, first releasing the fifty bottles, which we were able to observe via the giant screen, and then the huge bottle that had been suspended over the deck since we’d arrived.  The bottle hit the bulkhead with a disappointing bonk, failing to break.  Someone on the lower deck pushed the bottle out so that it swung back and struck successfully, shattering and spraying champagne everywhere.

Immediately following the christening, the celebrity guests began moving their chairs to our side of the upper deck in preparation for the group pictures.  This photo op presented some challenges, the chief of which being that it was difficult to get everyone in one shot.  Another issue was that there were a number of official dipshits who were constantly in the way.  Mr. R. managed to get several shots of the group in segments.  I’m hoping you enjoy looking them over.  By the way, Adrian Zmed appears behind the left shoulder of Loni Anderson in her white captain’s cap.

It was the most amazing adventure I’ve ever had, which is exactly what I said after Tampa Bay Comic Con.  But seriously, beyond attending the Emmy Awards, where will you ever see so many celebrities in one place?  I’m so stoked for our next big adventure!

Amazing Date Night–Blast From The Past (3)

We’re finally getting to the good part.  Thanks for hanging in there with me.  These are the photos taken by Mr. R. as the former Love Boat guest stars made their way along the gold carpet at Wednesday’s Princess Cruises 50th Anniversary and Christening Celebration.  We were on board the brand new Regal Princess docked at Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale.

Everyone, without exception, was incredibly nice, pausing to answer questions, give mini-interviews, and posing for pictures.  Mr. R. and I were jammed between two large television cameras and he stood behind me, shooting over my shoulder.  I had prepared a couple of questions, but confession:  As the celebrities began moving toward us I became completely tongue-tied.  This is so far removed from what I do on a daily basis.  I totally glommed on to the reporter next to us, writing down little tidbits to use for this report.

Mr. R., on the other hand, has interviewed many politicians and celebrities, but he busied himself with the camera for the most part.  There was that moment, however, when he joked around with Rich Little for a bit, then took a selfie of the two of them with his phone.

I did manage to tell Lee Merriwether that she was stunning, which she was.  The photos don’t do her justice.  She smiled and thanked me graciously.

So for my notes…I started out so organized, but then, well, it was a little overwhelming.  I resorted to writing the names of the people that I saw and occasionally made further notes if I saw or heard anything useful.  I’ll try to make it make sense.

First up was Loni Anderson.  I’ve actually seen her before.  Once upon a time she was married to Burt Reynolds who, once upon a time, had a house in Jupiter.  I was eating at Ruby Tuesday at the mall one day and the buzz in the restaurant was that she was there, but wanted her privacy.  I made an excuse to leave my table and went looking for her.  She wasn’t hard to find–hers was the only table to have a four-foot spray of tulips in a vase on the table.  I figured, hey, if you really don’t want to be noticed…But I digress.  She was so cute in her little nautical outfit, including the Swarovski crystal dolphin purse.  She was also very nice.

Next there was Charo.  She is exactly the same as she always was, and as she chatted up the reporter next to us she uttered this gem:  “Wheeen theee sheeep heeet the fan, jyou yust throw a party!”  Say it a couple of times, you’ll get it.  She was absolutely adorable and she happily posed for Mr. R.  By the way, remember her signature “cuchi-cuchi”?  Today they call it ‘twerking’.  I don’t know what diva claims that move, but it goes all the way back to Charo.

Jamie Farr stopped to chat with my new buddy, Next Door Reporter.  He was funny and gracious.  He told us that on his episode of Love Boat, he gave Heather Locklear her first on-screen kiss.  Well now!  Joyce DeWitt chatted about her LB appearance, outlining the plot of the episode.

I was thrilled to see Florence Henderson and Chris Knight.  Who among us hasn’t at least once wished that they were a Brady?  Jack Jones stopped by and was persuaded to sing a bit of the iconic LB theme (he later performed the whole thing during the ceremony).  Pam Grier mentioned that she lives on a ranch in Colorado and that she has a new biopic coming out soon.

Diane Ladd revealed the fact that before her LB appearance, she had done a touring show with Gavin MacLeod.  Lorenzo Lamas chatted briefly about Falcon Crest and expressed his appreciation that his LB episode was an actual cruise to Greece.  Most episodes were shot on a Hollywood set.

Rich Little came down the carpet stopping along the way to do his thing, spot on impressions of various celebrities.  He was super nice and very funny.  Lee Merriwether was dressed in winter white slacks, a matching turtle neck, with a navy blazer, and she looked fabulous.  Remember her apricot curls during her Barnaby Jones days?  They’ve been replaced by a sleek short gray style that’s stunning.  We also saw Tracy Nelson, Kristy McNichol (I wanted to be her when I was a kid), Don Most, Doris Roberts, and Mackenzie Phillips. There were other celebrity guests who did not make the gold carpet but they attended the later festivities.

Slightly disappointing was the fact that the original cast did not appear on the gold carpet.  They were not introduced until much later.  There’s still a lot more to tell.  Stay tuned…

Amazing Date Night–Blast From The Past (2)

To continue from Part 1, Mr. R. and I accepted the invitation to attend the event celebrating the 50th anniversary of Princess Cruises and the christening of their new ship, the Regal Princess in Ft. Lauderdale.  The powers that be for that event needed a great deal of information, including our driver’s license information.

Believe it or not, we kicked around the idea of not going.  After all, it meant having to get off early from work, not always easy to do.  Then we imagined sitting on the sofa on Wednesday night, looking at each other, and saying, “We really should have gone.”  Don’t they say, “You never regret the things you do, only the things you don’t.”?

wpid-20141105_145820.jpgAnd so it was that we headed down to Ft. Lauderdale on Wednesday afternoon.  Media check in at the ship was at 3:00.  We followed the directions to Port Everglades where we had to present our identification to security before we parked in the area literally beside the ship that was reserved for media.  We entered the building and again presented our IDs, this time to the cruise employees.  They exchanged them for media passes and explained that they would hold our until we left.  We were also required to fill out customs forms that asked whether we’d traveled to west Africa recently and if we were currently sick.

wpid-20141106_061434.jpgA pleasant man from the public relations firm escorted us onto the Regal Princess, stopping at the top of the gangway for us to have our pictures taken by security agent at the entryway.  We then proceeded through the amazing multi-storied atrium all done in white and gold with its twin spiral staircases, to the elevators that took us to the 16th deck where the pool is located.  He explained to us that we were to continue on the the next deck via a stairway to where the media section was prepared.

We discovered a small group of media already set up along a gold carpet runway next to the eastern rail of the ship.  Each media outlet had its own designated area and we quickly found ours near the end of the carpet runway.  We saw crews from Entertainment Tonight and Access Hollywood in addition to local news crews.  Cameras were already placed on tripods along the gold carpet so we squeezed in between two other news crews.  Mr. R. brought a DSLR camera from the station and I had my handy-dandy reporter’s notebook ready.

Waiting for the event to begin, we took shelter during a brief rain shower.

According to the PR representatives, in addition to the original Love Boat cast, who were being named the ‘godparents’ of the new ship, there were twenty-nine Love Boat guest stars in attendance at this event.  We were handed a packet listing the stars in alphabetical order from Loni Anderson to Adrian Zmed, along with recent photos (the better to identify those not easily recognizable).  These celebrities would soon be making their way along the gold carpet and would be happy to answer questions and pose for pictures.

Following the gold carpet, there were to be celebrity interviews on the lower deck beside the pool.  The media had a designated place from which to observe these.  Later, there would be a ceremony for the christening of the ship.  Finally, there would be a photo opportunity wherein all of the celebrities would pose for group pictures.

All I could think was, Are you shitting me?! 

*Note: These photos were taken with my phone.  The next post will feature the photos by Mr. R.  Stay tuned…

Amazing Date Night–Blast From The Past (1)

Earlier, I hinted at a once in a lifetime date night.  I think it’s going to take a few posts to capture the whole thing, but I want to begin at the beginning.

Mr. R. works as an assignment editor at our local ABC affiliate.  He’s the guy who takes the phone calls and gets the e-mails when there’s an event or other news story.  A couple of weeks ago he mentioned to me that he’d been contacted by public relations people for Princess Cruises.  Princess is celebrating 50 years of cruising and they have a brand new ship, the Regal Princess.  The media was being invited to cover a celebration of their Golden Anniversary and christening the new cruise liner.  The entire cast of The Love Boat television series would be in attendance along with several celebrity guest stars of the show.

wpid-20141106_203049.jpgI thought that sounded like a really cool assignment for somebody from the station.  Mr. R. also mentioned to me that he’d received a huge box from the press people containing some Love Boat souvenirs.  He brought it home one day.  When you open the box, it plays an instrumental version of the Love Boat theme.  Inside were two captain’s hats, a Love Boat clipboard, two confetti poppers, and a squeezy Love Boat.

The trouble is, nobody at the station was very interested in covering the event.  A few days later, we kicked around the idea of us covering it.  After all, Mr. R. is an accomplished photojournalist, and I occasionally blog.

Long story (slightly) shorter, we accepted the invitation, signed up for Media Passes, and made the necessary arrangements to cover the Princess Cruises 50th Anniversary and Christening of the Regal Princess in Ft. Lauderdale.

To be continued…


We’re Gonna ROCK This Thing!

Tuesday is my birthday, y’all.  A big one.  Thanks to Facebook, I’ve watched many of my former classmates hit the big 5-0 before me.  It’s rightfully my turn.  But before I surrender to the idea of joining the AARP, living on nickel coffee, and mangeing out at the 4:30 Early Bird Specials, I think I’ll look around and see who else is at the mid-century mark.

Check this out.  All these people were born in 1964:

  • Lenny Kravitz
  • Rosie Perez
  • Eddie Vedder
  • Marisa Tomei
  • Sandra Bullock
  • Rob Lowe
  • Stephen Colbert
  • Courtney Love
  • Bobby Flay
  • Molly Shannon
  • Tracy Chapman
  • Wanda Sykes
  • (Stone Cold) Steve Austin
  • Keanu Reeves
  • Nicholas Cage
  • Courtney Cox
  • Russell Crowe
  • Don Cheadle

That’s not too shabby.  I’m in pretty good company.  We don’t seem like we’re ready to hang it up for the nursing home just yet.  And, there are always the ones who hit 50 last year (including Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, James Hetfield, Quentin Tarantino, and Michael Jordan).

Oh, yeah.  We’re going to make this look good.  Go ahead.  Envy us.  I know Mr. R. does.  He still has a couple of years to go.  That’s right.  I’m an older woman.

It’s going to look kind of like this.

I only picked a few.  Click on the link for the full list.